Reverse mortgage lenders and originators have made great strides in improving the product’s image over the last decade. But once the borrower signs the loan documents, his or her fate — and the loan’s reputation — is fully in the hands of the servicer.
Although all lenders interviewed for this article expressed satisfaction with the upper management of the servicing companies, they said they wish there was more training and education for the employees who interact directly with borrowers and their families. This, in an effort to cut down on misinformation unanswered, or family members having trouble getting resolutions after the borrower dies or moves, they said. Many times the difficulties surface at the time the loan is called due and payable.
Melinda Hipp, branch manager with Open Mortgage, LLC in San Antonio, Texas, agrees that more training and education at the call center level would benefit everyone.
Hipp said that she has had borrowers’ spouses call and tell her that servicers erroneously informed them that they needed to quickly move out of their homes, or that the servicer would not give them any information because they were not listed as the point of contact on the reverse mortgage.
“It’s not the program, it’s not the up-front costs. The bad rap comes from the stories people hear about what happens in the end,” she said.
It’s these errors in the servicing world that worry Karen Rayfield, a loan officer with Retirement Funding Solutions in Virginia Beach, Va. For these servicers, Rayfield said she would like to see more oversight from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and possibly the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
“Someone needs to say enough is enough,” she said. “There has to be some way for complaints to be resolved, and there needs to be a timely resolution. Servicing is a very critical piece of the whole puzzle and it has to be done well.”
Although not typically part of an originator’s job description, Harlan Accola said he goes out of his way to help his clients with any servicing issues that may arise. Accola, national director for reverse mortgages at Madison, Wis.-based Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation, said either he or his assistant becomes an approved point of contact on these loans, so that they can call the servicer with the borrower or on the borrower’s behalf.
“It’s everybody’s job to make the industry look good,” Accola said. “We can’t fix the whole world, but we can at least fix this. It’s all of our jobs to be ambassadors.”
As for communication between the servicer and originator, Hipp wants the servicing companies to instruct originators on how to handle the servicing questions clients commonly ask them.
“I’ve said, ‘Let’s have a servicing seminar, and before we talk we’ll have originators send in questions they’ve been asked by clients, and then you can tell us how to help them,’” Hipp said. “If we can have dialogue between the front end and the back end to help person in middle, it would be really, really good,” she said.
Hipp said that a more proactive partnership between the servicer and the borrower would lessen some of the other common problems.
“Simple reminders from the servicer to the borrower about what will happen in the event of death or relocation would keep the borrower safer in the end,” Hipp said.
Written by Maggie Callahan